SALEM, Va. -– A day off on Day 3 of the NCAA Division II Softball Championships means only one thing – your team must be in the winners’ bracket.

That’s the case for Central Oklahoma, which opened the tournament at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex with a 5-2 win against Armstrong Atlantic on Thursday, and a 7-1 win against Molloy on Friday.

So Saturday’s calendar was wide-open for the Bronchos – just the way they had hoped it would be. Coach Genny Stidham said there were already some preset events on the agenda.

“We’ll get a practice in, and we’ll have dessert,” she said. “Our rule of thumb is if we play a double-header and we win both games, you get dessert. If you play one game and you win, you get dessert.

“Since we’ve won the last two games, we’ve had a lot of dessert – sometimes more than one.”

Which probably made the trip back to Edmond, Okla., from Overland Park, Kan. – the site of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament – a bit empty.

Central Oklahoma went into that event as the No. 1 seed. But when they arrived in Kansas, the area was dealing with a spring storm that made if feel more like winter. When the Bronchos took the field for their first game, the wind-chill factor was 28 degrees.

While the team won its first two games, something was missing in their performance, and it cost them when they lost back-to-back games to Fort Hays State and Emporia State, which knocked them out of title contention.

“I am to blame for the conference tournament,” Stidham said. “I didn’t think we were going to play, and I think the girls fed off of what I was projecting.”

The Bronchos were on the road for the start of the Central Region tournament – this time the destination was Hays, Kan. The weather was better, as was the team’s attitude.

“I think that sometimes there are things that spark you, and you say ‘we’ve made some mistakes, and we’re either going to lay down, or we’re going to rise up,’” Stidham said. “On this occasion, this team said ‘hey, we might have played bad, but we have a little spark underneath us, and we need to rise to the occasion.’ They weren’t going to let that happen again, and I said I wouldn’t let that happen again, and we were ready to play the next time we stepped onto the field.”

Starting with that trip to Hays, the Bronchos toured some of the finer dessert houses across the country. They swept through the regionals – finishing it off with back-to-back wins against host Fort Hays State. Then as host of the Central Region’s Super Regional, Central Oklahoma took care of Winona State in two games, clinching their spot in the championship tournament.

“Since then, they’ve picked me up,” Stidham said. "There’s times I make mistakes, just like there’s times they make mistakes.”

Among those helping “pick up’ Stidham is shortstop Kacie Edwards. She has gone 4-for-7 with two home runs, a double and four RBIs in Central Oklahoma’s two games in Salem.

But when it comes to blaming the coach for that late-season stumble, Edwards doesn’t really agree.

“She can’t take all of the blame for that,” Edwards said. “Collectively, almost everyone out there had a terrible attitude going out there. This game is mostly mental. And when you go out there thinking there’s no way they’re going to make us play, that’s our fault more so than it is [the coach].

“That tournament was really about learning what we were going to be up against and learning how to adjust. I think we’ve done it well so far.”